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GOP Municipal Candidates Mix It Up In NJ Primary

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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TRENTON, NJ (AP) – Municipal races are providing some of the drama in Tuesday’s New Jersey primaries, with some hotly contested matchups on the Republican side.

Republican candidates for mayor and municipal councils see this as a good year for the GOP because of the work of their standard-bearer, Gov. Chris Christie.

“In some of the municipal areas, we’re seeing increased competition because they believe this may be the year to put their tail in the water and win,” said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University. “This is really the net impact of Gov. Christie’s success.”

At the top of the ballot are primary elections for all New Jersey legislative seats, with contested races in 10 of 40 Senate races and 16 of 40 Assembly districts. But the real action there comes in the general election in the fall.

On the municipal side Tuesday, two candidates vying for the Republican mayoral nomination in Woodbridge see a chance to overtake Democratic Mayor John McCormac, even though there are three registered Democrats for every Republican in New Jersey’s sixth-largest town. Christie eked out a win in Woodbridge in 2009 and Councilman Robert Luban and attorney Christopher Struben both think have a chance to beat the odds.

Luban, a Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican, has been dogged by criticisms of his public pension. Luban’s modest pension from his part-time service as a councilman was reported to be have been boosted ten-fold through a high-paid position he held for a few years in the office of a former state treasurer named John McCormac, the same person he is now trying to unseat in his bid for mayor.

Near the border with New York, an acrimonious primary for the West Milford Township Council is pitting two competing groups against each other in a town that has more registered Republicans than Democrats, unusual for New Jersey. JoAnn Blom, a first-time candidate, and Ada Erik, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2009, are striving to squeeze out incumbents Daniel Jurkovic and Philip Weisbecker Jr.

In local New Jersey politics, candidates running with the blessing of their party’s county organization almost always make it to the general election. But Jurkovic and Weisbecker serve under the banner of a GOP splinter group. That leaves Blom and Erik fighting a proxy war for the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization to wrest control of local GOP politics back to the establishment outfit.

Erik is a horse rancher, self-employed carpenter and volunteer emergency medical technician; she says she was inspired to run after sitting through a budget meeting where “supposedly grown men” screamed, pounded the table and generally accomplished very little.

“There’s so much infighting going on that business is not getting done,” Erik told The Associated Press.

In Princeton Borough, voters in November may see a Republican candidate for mayor on the ballot for the first time since 1999. Attorney Jill Jachera is running a write-in campaign in a town Republicans usually write off as a bastion of liberal academics. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five-to-one.

Jachera said she never had any aspirations to run for office, but that Democratic friends, nonplussed by the other candidates, urged her to enter the race. But that didn’t happen until after the filing deadline, so she had no choice but to run as a write-in candidate.

“I’m a moderate Republican, and quite frankly, I don’t think partisan politics has any business in local politics,” said Jachera, who added that Princeton is facing a crossroads. “The town-gown relationship is dysfunctional, property taxes are out of control, and people are feeling pressure to move out of the community.”

One issue likely to be on the minds of Princeton voters is the proposed merger between the borough and the township, which a commission estimates could save $3.1 million annually. Jachera said she hasn’t analyzed the proposal in enough detail to take a stance, but doesn’t have an instinctive objection to consolidation.

Jachera, 49, needs 14 or more write-in votes to get on the November ballot, according to the Mercer County Board of Elections. She would face the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, being fought between Yina Moore and Councilman David Goldfarb.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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